England can’t afford to overlook Farrell

IT’S BEEN a terrific start to the season here at Saracens and I was delighted to see the side carry their domestic form into the Heineken Cup yesterday.

Treviso are a powerful side with a finely tuned set-piece, so to run in five tries and gain a bonus point was a marvellous achievement.

Owen Farrell starred again and the speed of his development has been incredible to witness over the last 12 months. He’s a great example of someone who has succeeded because he possesses the sort of focus all great players require.

The start of the Six Nations is still some distance away but Owen, who really reminds me of Mike Catt, is certainly someone the selectors should be looking at as England attempt to move on from the World Cup.

At the other end of the age spectrum it was an encouraging try-scoring debut from former Springboks skipper John Smit. Much was made of his signing considering how well stocked we are for hookers, with the likes of Schalk Brits and Jamie George in the squad.

John understands he may be restricted in terms of playing time but he’s really excited by the project and is looking forward to helping the development of our young players.

It was a pretty exciting week off the field too at Saracens with the confirmation that Cape Town Stadium would host January’s Heineken Cup match against Biarritz.

This has become a bigger issue in South Africa than you might imagine with the traditional venue at Newlands overlooked in favour of a new modern stadium. It’s also been mooted that this groundbreaking fixture could eventually trigger the involvement of South African clubs in the Heineken Cup.

It certainly makes sense from a travel point of view, while it also appeals to broadcasters who would be showing matches closer to primetime than is the case when our teams go to Australia and New Zealand.

Of more immediate concern, however, are the upcoming fixtures against Biarritz and then London Irish, who lost this weekend minus the services of the suspended Delon Armitage.

It’s the fourth time Delon has been in trouble with the authorities this year and he must use the time this latest enforced absence provides him with to evaluate his playing style.

I’ve got a lot of time for Delon having coached him while he was breaking through at Irish, but there comes a time when you have to accept what you’re doing on the field is wrong.

Brendan Venter is technical director of Saracens, who play London Irish in the Aviva Premiership at Vicarage Road on Sunday 4 December, kick-off 2pm. See www.saracens.com or call 01727 792800.